About the same time in early January that Austin police apprehended the man accused of stealing thousands of dollars worth of briskets from area H-E-B stores, several San Antonio barbecue joints began to experience costly overnight thefts. A word to the wise – lock up your outdoor pits and coolers.
In the early morning hours of Saturday, Jan. 31, the B & B Smokehouse (2627 Pleasanton Rd., San Antonio) had about 200 pounds of cooking briskets stolen from a locked pit in a gated and locked enclosure outside the restaurant. According to director of operations Charles Neira, the fence around the enclosure had been cut and folded back and the safety lock on the pit had been picked.
"The security footage shows a shadowy figure, all in black, but you never see his face. He seems to know what he's doing; he's not working with a flashlight or anything. We had just bought a new rack on wheels. He loaded the meat on that and just rolled it out," Neira told us. Because the briskets were only partially cooked and would have needed to finish cooking before they could have been served, Neira assumes the thief must have his own barbecue operation or be stealing the meat for someone who does.
In the course of our conversation, Neira mentioned two other San Antonio barbecue restaurants that had recently been hit by burglars. Chef and restaurateur Jason Dady told me his Two Bros. BBQ Market (12656 West Ave., San Antonio) lost $2,500 worth of raw meat from a padlocked cooler in a gated enclosure outside the restaurant kitchen about three weeks ago.
In this situation, Dady says the security video footage shows a man all in black loading meat from the cooler into duffel bags and throwing them over the fence. He assumes the briskets, pork shoulders, ribs, and chickens were smoked and sold quickly. "Some food truck or little barbecue place on the road to the oil field probably had a very good day," he speculates. All Dady could do was report the theft to police and increase security measures, saying "The cooler door now has a lock with an alarm on it just like the front door."
After four and a half years with a food truck at Loop 410 and Nacogdoches Road in San Antonio, Chris Conger moved into his first brick-and-mortar barbecue restaurant in the summer of 2014. The unlocked outdoor pit at Conger's Smoke Shack (3714 Broadway, San Antonio) was hit two weeks ago by a burglar who took 12 pork butts destined to become pulled pork. Conger has also increased his security measures.
Though the method of these thefts doesn't resemble the ones at the Austin grocery stores, each of these business owners had the distinct impression the thief must have checked out their restaurants in advance and known exactly what he was looking for and where to find it. Their costly experience should serve as a cautionary tale for any barbecue restaurateur with accessible outdoor storage areas or pits. Meat prices aren't expected to go down anytime soon.
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